Season 2 Episode 2
When Master Talus hissed at Landry, “I don’t give a s how you feel,” it felt like, finally, someone said it. Tom Cullen is a fine lead but Landry of the first season was, to put it mildly, selfish. His betrayal of his Templar vows caused not only a rupture of friendship but the death of his brothers. He denied the warrior Gawain the use of the Holy Grail, but when it was his lover Joan’s life that was on the line, he had no hesitation about using it. A common issue with a tale centered on one lead is that their pain becomes narratively more important; a balance with the world outside the lead’s life and love is not easy to achieve. The second season of Knightfall is built on the stories of the first season, but it had also taken steps to address its lapses. Landry is still Knightfall’s smoldering hero, but he has begun to learn and accept that not everything is about him.
When fellow Initiate Rhone was discovered to have kept a prayer scroll given to him by his mother, Landry tried to take the blame. When a group of armed Luceferians surrounded them in a dark forest, Landry remembered Talus’ instruction not to break formation; he fought in formation though Quentin died. When a number of Templars led by Berenger branded Landry with a cross due to their belief that it was him who brought misfortune to their ranks, Landry refused to tell a concerned Tancrede the culprits, because Templars did not betray their brothers. Landry’s way to become a Templar once more was an imperfect road, but that Knightfall showed it made this a stronger season.
While Talus remains a singularly arresting figure on screen, his addition to Knightfall also served to illustrate rather than merely pay lip service to the notion of brotherhood. Here was a character whose very presence was a constant reminder to Landry that there were bigger forces at work than his love and his pain. “We become the ladder,” Landry told his fellow Initiates when he finally decoded the exercise that had defeated other Initiate teams. The Initiates had to climb over each other to scale a slippery wall without a ladder or a rope. The usually disapproving Talus looked pleased when the first of Landry’s teammates successfully made the climb. Brotherhood. Teamwork. Landry is being taken apart and put back together as a Templar.
Tancrede, for all his devotion to the Grail and the Templar life, was also a man who loved a woman. Baby Eve now lived in a convent, in the care of a nun, Anne, who was clearly beloved by Tancrede. Tancrede has unknowingly put her in danger, for King Philip had tasked the brutal, anguished Prince Louis to track down the babe that Queen Joan had given birth to. Louis cared not for the lives he would take; he had his men slaughter a priest who objected to his taking of the baptismal scrolls. With Louis now in possession of a record of every infant birth in the last three months, an allusion to the Massacre of the Innocents has commenced.
Ed Stoppard has fully embraced King Philip’s villain role, so that equal to the renewed energy of the Templars tale is the compelling darkness of the French Court. Philip brooked no argument when he arranged his daughter Isabella’s marriage to England’s Prince Edward, who was known to favor the company of men. When Pope Boniface ill-advisedly turned up in Paris and asserted his right over Kings, Philip unleashed De Nogaret. Queen Joan feared her husband back in the first season; Philip was now not necessarily stronger, but his manner of wielding his power was surer.
De Nogaret has long been compared to Game of Thrones’s Littlefinger, but his patience and hands on approach to vengeance in this episode was more Varys (remember when Varys had that sorcerer who cut him in a crate?). In 1279, Pope Boniface as a young priest personally burned at the stake a couple who were believed to be Cathars; they were De Nogaret’s parents. De Nogaret nursed his anger in silence for decades. When King Philip wanted to be rid of the Pope, De Nogaret had his chance. Gawain single handedly overpowered the Papal guards and gave De Nogaret time alone with the Pope, time enough to murder him with his bare hands.
There was a moment in this second episode when I thought Knightfall had turned into a completely different show; it was when Landry and a handful of fellow Initiates came across Luceferians in the forest. I don’t know what the long term plan for Knightfall is, but packed episodes like this make me wish the show has enough viewer support for another season.
⚔︎ King Philip gave Prince Louis the Paris temple.
⚔︎ De Nogaret counseled King Philip about building an iron clad legal case against the Templars, with testimony from a former Templar.
⚔︎ I like that Knightfall showed Anne as a female artist.
⚔︎ I don't know why Draper was tasked to lead the squad to look for the Luceferians in the forest, when he was shown as the Templars' most knowledgeable healer. Surely a man of Draper's skills should be protected. In any case, Draper and the Templars were ambushed by Prince Louis and his men.